A Stock Phrase that indicates that an employee wasn't hired for their brains.
Sometimes, it's important to think on your feet. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and a little brains can take you a long way. But people in authority sometimes fear those with a brain in their head. After all, someone who thinks is someone who may start to question authority, their authority. The basic idea is that someone in a lowly position gets a bright idea, but is told that either they're not paid to think, or that it's not their job to think, or some other form of that. Might be a low-level employee in a company, or it could be something like a minion to the Big Bad.
To some degree, Truth in Television; many large organizations, such as the military, depend on everyone sticking to the same plan, and it isn't always reasonable to convince or fully explain it to each and every person involved, so acting on individual decision-making instead of instructions can undermine your organization's larger goals. A soldier who thinks too much and doesn't obey orders is therefore considered a liability. It's worth pointing out that despite the listed benefits of groups following the same plan, a good point or idea shouldn't just be thrown away carelessly.note
In the end, however, bosses who hold to this philosophy only have themselves to blame when they find themselves Surrounded by Idiots. If this is common in your work place, it's one of the sure signs your boss is unfit for the job.
If the boss or Big Bad is seriously annoyed by this thinking behavior, he may demote said employee/minion to an even lowlier position, fire them (sometimes literally), or tell them You, Get Me Coffee.
Note that actual payment, or non-payment as the case may be, need not necessarily be involved - "I don't pay you to think" is in many cases just as much an attitude as it is a phrase actually spoken out loud.
Can overlap with I Warned You if the villain disregards something their henchman was trying to tell them, and it ends up being fatal. If your role is a Yes-Man, then you can simply assume that this is true and shouldn't need to have it said to you.
Contrast Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!, which too much of this trope can ultimately lead to,note
- A single panel strip from Sticky Comics features a boss saying this line and nothing else to a corporate scientist.
- Dilbert: Wally's general attitude is the inversion: you don't pay me enough to think.
- In the original 101 Dalmatians, Horace comments "I've been thinking," and Jasper grabs him by the shirt and tells him that he's warned him about thinking. "I've got the knob for this job, so let's get on with it."
- In Rock & Rule, Mok comes up with this gem when his talking-head minions actually dare to voice their doubts about his plan:
Mok: When I want your opinions, I'll give them to you!
- A slightly different version of this trope in The Adventures of Tintin.
Sakharine: Do I pay you to talk to me?
Nestor: You don't pay me at all.
- The Phantom (1943): A henchman gets it from the villain after he gets ahead of himself in disposing of someone who hasn't outlived his usefulness quite yet.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Whit says "I think she's telling the truth" to which Walker replies "Really? Well, I don't pay you to think, do I? I pay you to lie, cheat, and steal."
- In the film Dark Blue, Jack Van Meter tells Sgt. Eldon Perry Jr. "Your job is not to think. It is to follow orders, to execute plans and to be a good soldier."
- The World Is Not Enough:
R: (after botching a Bond One-Liner and being called on it by Q) I think—
Q: You're not here to think, you're here to do what I tell you!
- Vizzini to Fezzik in The Princess Bride: "Am I going mad, or did the word 'think' just escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippapotamic land mass!"
- In TRON, Sark tells an underling, "Don't think anymore. I do the thinking around here."
- Total Recall (1990) (1990). Cohaagen is berating his subordinate Richter.
Cohaagen: First you try and kill Quaid, and then you let him get away!
Richter: He had help from our side, sir.
Cohaagen: I know that.
Richter: But I thought...
Cohaagen: Who told you to think? I don't give you enough information to think. You do what you're told. That's what you do.
- Agent Smecker gets a few of these in The Boondock Saints, including one along the lines of, "Greenly, the day I want the Boston Police to do my thinking for me, I will have a fucking tag on my toe!" Though in Smecker's case, it's more of looking down on their investigative capacity than "hiring them for their brains."
- Things to Come actually has this line used in a Rousing Speech given by The Chief, a local tinpot dictator, to the men who've tried to provide him with an air force (a few decrepit biplanes) capable of taking on John Cabal's huge flying wings.
"You are not mechanics, but warriors. You have been trained not to think, but to die. I salute you! I, your Chief!"
- The villain of Kiss of the Dragon executes one of his own men for this reason.
[Richard and his men have chased Liu inside the supply room]Richard: Check the vent!Thug: I think...Richard: [shoots him] Don't think!
- Weird Al's UHF has R. J. Fletcher, the Corrupt Corporate Executive who is so evil he does this to his own son.
- Ghostbusters (1984): Walter Peck arrives at the team's HQ to shut down their ghost containment unit with a police officer and an electrical-worker. While Peter protests, the electrical-worker takes a look at the equipment and determines that it really isn't a good idea to mess with it. Peck says tells the electrical-worker. "I'm not interested in your opinion; just shut it off!"
- In Swimming with Sharks, Buddy Ackerman has a lot of this, at any of his employees.
- In Snatch., Brick Top doesn't like his Dragon Errol to do any thinking.
Brick Top: He's been quite a busy little bastard, that Turkish.Errol: I think you've let him get away with enough, Guv'nor.Brick Top: It'll get you in a lot of trouble thinking, Errol. I wouldn't do too much of it.(later)Brick Top: What do you think, Errol?Errol: I think we should drip dry 'em, Guv'nor. While we've got the chance.Brick Top: (exasperated) It was a rhetorical question, Errol. What have I told you about thinking?
- The Thing (2011). Kate objects to taking a tissue sample from the ice-bound alien. Her boss reprimands her for questioning his authority in front of the others. "You're not here to think. You're here to get that thing out of the ice."
- Rocky has an example of this when Rocky only collects 130 dollars from someone who owed his boss 200:
Rocky: I figured... look, I figured if I break the guy's thumb, he gets laid off, right? Then he can't make...Gazzo: Yeah, well don't figure! Let me do the figurin', okay, Rock? From here on in, just let me do the figuring, you know? These guys think we're running some kind of charity or something. That they can get off light. From here on in, do what I tell you to do, because it's bad for my reputation! You understand?
- In If, the boarding school "whips" in the Absurdly Powerful Student Council are waited on hand and foot by younger pupils, who are certainly not expected to think for themselves.
Rowntree: What are these?Philips: Muffins.Rowntree: I thought I specifically ordered crumpets.Philips: I couldn't get any, I thought these would do.Rowntree: It's not up to you to think.
- In The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance, a boss tells an employee "I really don't care what you think. I don't pay you to think. I especially don't pay you to think about corporate strategy. I pay you to run the research department and run it well."
- In Prison Romance, this occurs with a ho who is told "I don't pay you to think, I don't pay you to talk..."
- In Atlas Shrugged, Directive 10-289, the "moratorium on brains," chains all existing employees to their jobs, with a potential penalty of jail for any that quit. If any do quit, anyway (or lose their job for other reasons), that job is then assigned to someone else by a government committee, regardless of that person's ability to actually do the job.
- Dr. Cruces gets Lord Downey both coming and going in Men at Arms.
Downey: Doctor, I think—
Cruces: Think? You're not paid to think! Heaven knows where the idiot has got to. I ordered the Guild searched! Why didn't anyone force the door?
Downey: Sorry, doctor, Edward left us weeks ago and I didn't think—
Cruces: You didn't think? What are you paid for?
- In Unseen Academicals, Smeems tells Mr Nutt he's not paid to think. Nutt responds with a bland "Shall endevour not to do so, sir", but when Smeems asks him to work out how to get him down from the Emperor Candle, Nutt can't resist replying "I thought I wasn't paid to think, sir."
- In one of The Science of Discworld books, Ridcully asks Ponder if he's being paid to think. Ponder calmly replies that yes, he is.
- Dr. Cruces gets Lord Downey both coming and going in Men at Arms.
- Similarly in Friday by Robert A. Heinlein. The Chief of the California Confederacy tells one of his minions that HE does the thinking, then moments later chews the minion out for not getting Friday a chair, saying: "Do I have to think of everything myself?"
- This is the attitude of many of the vermin commanders in the Redwall series of books.
Tsarmina: Thought?! Who gave you permission to think?
- This actually gets one of the villain underlings killed in Mossflower. Sent out to trail Tsarmina, he comes back to one of her commanders and says that he thought he'd better come back and report. At first, he is praised, but then another commander asks "Who told you that you had permission to think?" and tells him go to right back out and find Tsarmina. He does so, and ends up getting killed by Tsarmina, who in a haze of crazed revenge believes him to be her traitor brother Gingivere.
- Used in the 1960s children's adventure novel Manxmouse, by Paul Gallico. A group of hounds is hunting for a fox and a young Private states "I think he's in there, under that hedge, sir." A General replies "Quiet! I'm the one here who's paid to think."
- Tiny, the Dumb Muscle German soldier from the Sven Hassel novels, is always saying that he was told by his superiors not to think. "Leave it to the horses, they've got bigger heads."
- In The Red Pyramid, the chaos god Set does this when the demon Face of Horror raises an objection after Set gets upset with him for apparently moving too slowly in gathering other demons to do his bidding.
Face of Horror: But master, I thought...Set: Do not think, demon.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi's treatment of the Brill brothers basically amounts to this. At one point, she even tells them not to so much as think in her direction and almost manages to convince them that she's actually able to tell when they're doing so.
- Jon Spiro treats his flunkies, Pecs and Chips in a similar fashion. When one of them makes a comment about dino dung forming into diamonds over time, he suggests paying them in dung, which shuts them up in a hurry.
- In Cat in a Yellow Jumpsuit, from the Midnight Louie mysteries about crime-solving cats, when one of the cats in the gang of Midnight Louie's mother, Ma Barker, tells her that he doesn't think she should go off on a particular assignment requested of her by Louie, she snaps that "You are eye candy. It is not your job to think."
- A Deconstructed Trope in Brisingr from Inheritance Cycle. Roran, the brother of the main protagonist Eragon, has joined the Varden's army and been sent on a dangerous mission in one of the towns of Big Bad Galbatorix. He's been given temporary command of a group of warriors, but is still under the command himself of a captain who has just ordered a rock-headed strategy to attack the town that is essentially suicide, a head-on assault pretty much guaranteed to result in failure. After the captain leaves, Roran implements his own strategy, but warns that everyone in his group may be made to take the punishment. All follow him and he ends up killing nearly 200 enemy forces through his own strength, secures the victory, and ends up rescuing the idiot captain and what few soldiers of his own he has remaining. Afterwards, Roran is stripped of his weapon and left for appropriate punishment. Upon return to the Varden, Roran is hailed by a hero, but still ordered that he must take 100 lashes if he wishes to remain with the Varden, the Varden's leader Nasuada explaining that his punishment must be severe and must be public, or else others will believe they too can disobey orders and the chain of command will break down. Afterwards, she promotes him to captain, as he is too valuable to lose, and this way she can be sure that the only orders he can disobey are hers, which had better only happen if it's in the process of directly killing Galbatorix.
- In Invisible Man, While Brother Jack is lecturing the Narrator for organizing Tod Cliftons funeral, he tells him that he was not hired to think.
- In Star Wars: The Last Command, Fingal and Governor Staffa of Berchest have a chat after they spot Luke Skywalker poking around on the planet. Fingal asks Staffa if he thinks that Skywalker saw the special transport they were using to carry clones for the Empire and Staffa replies that of course he saw it, wondering if Fingal thought Skywalker was hanging around for his health. At this, Fingal comments "I only thought..." only to be cut off by Staffa telling him to not think, as he isn't properly equipped for it.
- This is the downfall of Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel. In the first book, he orders his soldiers to stay still on pain of death until the Scarlet Pimpernel and the other refugees come out of the hut. They're so terrified of his displeasure that they obey his orders to the letter, and don't even capture Percy when he comes out of nowhere and walks straight into the hut. Similar situations occur in later books, which the Pimpernel is usually able to use against his foes.
- Subverted in Race to the Sun, where Big Bad Mr Charles says to his bodyguard Ms Bird "I don't pay you to think", followed after a moment with "I pay you to know".
- In the episode "Bar Association" on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark tells Leeta "I don't pay you to think. I pay you to spin the Dabo wheel."
- From "LGB Tease," on The L Word:
Jenny: (regarding her dog) What's this on his head? This is Mauve. This is not orange.
Marissa: Well, the groomer ran out of orange, so we thought we would...
Jenny: No. No, no. I don't pay you to think. (to the dog) Do I, Sounder? Do I pay her to think? (to Marissa) He hates you. So take him back to the groomers now and get orange ribbons so that he can like you again. That's it.
- In "Smart the Assassin" from Get Smart, Devonshire tells someone "KAOS doesn't pay you to think, you men were sent here to obey."
- This is inverted on Newsradio in a episode. Dave brings a problem to Jimmy and Jimmy points out Dave was hired to worry about these problems so Jimmy doesn't have to deal with them. (It eventually turns out Jimmy is both the primary cause of the problem and the only one with authority to fix it... which he may or may not have known from the start.)
- Used as a reprimand not of the minion, but of the boss in War of the Worlds (1988). The Martian mooks have contacted their ruling trio for instructions.
"Why can't these lower creatures think for themselves?""OUR job is to think! THEIRS is to obey, and we must never confuse the two!"
- Occurs on Doctor Who many times. One of the earliest is in "Day of the Daleks," where the malevolent pepperpots tell the Controller that "the function of the human is to obey."
- In the Only Fools and Horses episode "To Hull and Back", Dirty Cop DCI Slater says this several times to his subordinate and driver PC Hoskins. This ends up backfiring horribly on him, when it turns out the Met are onto his corrupt practices and Hoskins drives him into a police sting.
Slater :Look Hoskins, Terrance, use your loaf, help me out of this and I'll make you a rich man - the money from them other diamonds is in a bank account, I'll let you have half. What do you think?Hoskins (*turns, revealing hidden microphone on his lapel): You seem to forget sir, I don't think, I only do my job.
- In "12:00 P.M. - 1:00 P.M." from the premiere season of 24, Kevin Carroll tries to explain to Ira Gaines about Jack Bauer having got the jump on him.
Carroll: I thought I could handle him. I thought—Gaines: Stop thinking!
- Starsky & Hutch: When a henchman in "Targets Without a Badge" reports that one of his coworkers thinks surveilling Starsky and Hutch is a poor use of their resources, his boss says, "Soldier isn't paid to think."
- The Barrier: When Fernando wants to bring his superior Enrique's attention to an alleged robbery murder with suspicious details, Enrique tells Fernando that he's not paid to investigate on his own, or even think on his own.
- The Rock says, "It doesn't matter what you think!"
- Referenced by Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII. "'These Cocoon people' have spent centuries under fal'Cie rule, in constant fear of a Pulse invasion. If it weren't for Serah, I'd have been out there too. Hunting l'Cie. Would have been nothing but targets to me."
- Played with an odd way in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin as it's not an authority saying this but a person speaking of themselves. Gage's quote is actually "They don't pay me to think".
- Said word for word by General Randall in [PROTOTYPE]. Hilariously, he says it to a scientist.
Dr. Mercer: I wasn't paid to feel.
- Then Alex Mercer says this to himself when a scientists questions how he feels about making a deadly virus 10 times more deadly. Pretty much to show how much of an emotionless jerk he is.
- In the original Ratchet & Clank, Supreme Executive Chairman Drek gets the gist of the phrase across when berating Captain Qwark for failing to dispose of the titular duo at the end of the first act.
Drek: Back so soon?Qwark: ...Oh! You're talking to me!Drek: I'm not in the habit of talking to myself, you buffoon! Did you get rid of them?!Qwark: Yes! ...No. Well, I... I had this plan, and I thought-Drek: You 'thought'? You 'thought'?! I do the thinking around here, you slug-brained idiot! I simply needed you to eliminate those two nuisances before they can cause any real trouble!
- One standalone strip in Fluble rides this for all its worth, with Clown's boss saying no less than three variations of it:
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to ask relevant questions! I pay you to shred Arruda files!"
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to point out my obvious stupidity! I pay you to make Arruda files!"
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to shred Arruda files! I pay you to shred Arruda files!"
- Subverted in a strip of The Order of the Stick, when Belkar says this to Vaarsuvius, the party's wizard. V retorts by angrily saying s/he's not paid to do anything but think.
- Schlock Mercenary
- Villain of the Week Professor Pau delivers an interesting variation: "I don't pay you to think. I pay Max to think. Now don't touch anything while I talk to Max."
- At one point, Tagon tries this line on Ennesby, a small floating Artificial Intelligence who serves as his adjutant. Ennesby immediately shoots back that, by definition, his job as an adjutant is to think, "and when you get right down to it, I'm better at it than you are". Technically he doesn't get paid either.
- Inverted in this strip, where commander Andreyasn reacts to a thought from Lt. Ventura:
Cmdr Andreyasn: Excellent! You're one of the lucky few mercenaries here on Kaff Tagon's payroll who is, in fact, paid to think.
- MS Paint Masterpieces: Dr. Wily believes that robots should only follow orders, and blames one of Enker's failures on the fact that he THOUGHT when Wily is the one who does the thinking "around here" regardless of Quintet pointing out the flaw in his logic.
- "There's Something About Halo 2"
Master Chief: Hey, I don't pay you to criticize my chief-y ways!
Cortana: You don't pay me at all, I'm a computer...
- Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. His most successful bait is one which he wasted the time of a total of four scammers for 36 hours, but mostly the same two scammers, Adam and Alex. At one point early on when he is pretending to redeem gift cards, Adam shouts at him "Why are you using your mind?!"
- In "The Thin White Line" on Family Guy, Peter tells a rehab counselor "Yeah, well I don't pay you to think, hot lips, in fact, I don't pay you at all... Count it!"
- Quick Draw McGraw: "Hoold on there, Baba Louie! I'll do all the thin'ing around here, and dooon't you forget it!"
- Invader Zim to his computer: "I don't pay you to contradict me!"
- Computer: "You don't pay me at all..."
- The Transformers has an instance of this in "Five Faces of Darkness, Part 3".
Scourge: "It's not your place to think! Where he leads, all Decepticons must follow!"
- In the Speedy Gonzales cartoon "Mexicali Shmoes," Jose the fat cat explains how to catch Speedy to his skinny cat friend Manuel.
Jose: You can't catch him weeth the feets. You've got to catch him weeth...er, weeth the brains.Manuel: Brains? Where do we get thees brains?Jose: You don't need the brains. I have the brains.
- In "A Sunny Day in the Void" on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, after one of the droids says that he's been thinking, Colonel Gascon declares that it's his job to think, not the droid's.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Cheap tightwad boss Mr. Krabs does not pay SpongeBob to play dress-up or Squidward to breathe.
Squidward: You hardly pay us at all.
- There's also the scene where Spongebob's brain is represented as an office with lots of little Spongebobs running around doing work, and when the boss says "I don't pay you to think" the worker says "You don't pay us at all. We don't even exist. We're just a clever metaphor for the abstract process of thought."
- This article all but advises the reader to quit their job if they have a manager who would say something like this, noting "Life is way too short to spend another minute working for someone who could speak these words."
- From Not Always Right: "When Crazy Requests Reach The Stratosphere" - "Youre not paid to think, so just put a new satellite up." "But ma'am, that would take several months and millions of dollars!" "You and I both know that's not true; I expect it up by tonight, and it better not affect my bill."
- Forbes placed it at the top of a 2014 article of "10 Things Only Lousy Managers Say."
- According to Oleg Gordievsky, part of the reason NATO's 1983 Able Archer 83 exercises (simulating a gradual build-up of military readiness then-unprecedented in scale) soiled the Soviet leadership's collective pants so thoroughly was that under Operation RYaN KGB agents stationed in Western Europe were ordered only to report their observations, not their analysis. This meant that the increasingly isolated and paranoid Soviet leadership got the reports of on-the-ground evidence suggesting that NATO was about ready to launch a massive nuclear first strikenote on the USSR, but not the accompanying skepticism by those best in position to know (i.e., the reporting KGB agents in the West who best understood Western thinking) that NATO was actually about to start World War III. Though born of paranoia rather than pride, several nuclear-capable Warsaw Pact units and possibly Soviet ICBMs were ordered to prepare a "pre-emptive" first strike as a result. (It should be noted that Gordievsky, the highest-ranking KGB agent to ever defect to the West, is the West's main source about this episode - grains of salt should be taken according to taste.)
- Unfortunately, some parents and teachers are known to do this to their families / students, telling them to just do as they're told (without question), which ultimately teaches nothing, and helps no one. This especially applies to the more abusive ones, but mostly happens with the ones who either don't know any better, don't understand what they're doing, are otherwise not in their right minds, or who otherwise are just that ignorant. This can especially apply to those who (still, even today) think they're always right, because they are "smarter" / have lived longer / have had more experiences / other similar explanations.
- As explained earlier, this also applies to some senior military and / or law enforcement officers who think that "following orders" is ultimately a soldier / police officer's only purpose in life. Some even try to justify it with the "thinking will only get you killed" / "teamwork" explanations. While there is plenty of merit in being able to follow orders and work as a unit, the ability to think on one's feet can be absolutely crucial to survival in a FUBAR situation where chain of command breaks down.